~ 31 Days of Parenting Teens & Tweens, Day 19 ~
Embarrassed her. In front of grown-ups. And sometimes ~ cardinal sin ~ new friends.
What was precious to me, what was past to me, was at best, uncomfortable, and at worst, painful, reminder to her–
What she perceived as her Awkward Season…
when she was chasing independence,
the years of her B e c o m i n g.
The things she associates with that season are off-limits for me to bring up in front of others.
* * * * *
From my perspective as a parent, middle school is the perfect time to cultivate independence in children. They feel older; their bodies are signaling change, maturity. Emotionally and psychologically, they need to assume more freedom.
Wise parents will not only allow tweens to exercise more control in decision making, they'll encourage it.
So, when it came to choices based on preferences, I bit my tongue if I didn't agree and deferred to my children. For example, hairstyle, frames for glasses, clothes, hobbies. Certainly, I'd share my opinion, but these were not hills to die on–they weren't moral failings or rebellion.
Think about it: at puberty a body is suddenly growing and changing and emotions are roller coasting. Doesn't it make sense that the natural reaction is to control those things you can?
If a child isn't extended some measure of freedom, he'll become frustrated or defeated. He'll act out or rebel or retreat.
Especially when your children make the opposite choice you'd make, rest in this:
One day they'll realize you were right.
If you're lucky, they'll even admit it.
But hear me on this and learn from my repeated mistake:
Never, ever, EVER bring up the choices they made during the Awkward Years in front of family or your friends, and especially to their friends.
It sounds like a no-brainer, doesn't it? But I bet you've done it if your children are older.
I verbally and non-verbally affirmed and supported the choices my kids made as we intentionally encouraged their independence; sometimes it was easy but mostly this required restraint.
There's a good chance some of their choices will haunt them–even the things you LIKED that they choose to do. For instance, their hobbies and activities. Of course, some of their pictures go without saying…!
But if they associate it with their Awkward Years, they don't want you bringing it up years later.
Even for their choices that were good in your opinion.
Which is why I'm not being more specific in this post :).
If your children are in their later teens ~
- Respect them.
- If you don't already know, have a conversation about the things you tell others that might be painful or embarrassing to them.
If your children are in their early teens ~
- Make sure you're encouraging age-appropriate decision making.
- Distinguish between moral, rebellious and simply preferential choice.
Your turn: Am I the only one in this? Can you think of examples where you've either done a great job of keeping your mouth shut or blown it like me?
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